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Zipcar’s growing success in the rental car business has encouraged the company to expand to cargo van rental services.
Aiming its sights at van rental companies, U-Haul and Budget, Zipvan will have a pilot release in the San Francisco and Oakland area, beginning with a fleet of only six Ford E-150 vans in three San Francisco neighborhoods and expanding by early January to 15 vans throughout the bay. The birthplace of the alternative rock sub-genre, grunge, Zipvan hopes to better serve young college students, local musicians, bands, and artists alike. Zipcar has long built its business by catering to college students.
While Zipvan’s starting price of $14.75/hour or $99 a day may not always undercut U-Haul, Zipvan believes its flexible options and convenience in ordering a van will ultimately make their business model more appealing. Zipvan members can skip extensive paperwork and simply log onto their account and reserve a van via four simple taps on their smartphone.
Another key differentiation between Zipvan and U-Haul is the convenience of renting either by the hour or by the day. What’s more, U-Haul and Budget usually charge a base rate while the renter will be responsible for purchasing gasoline. Zipcar, on the other hand, will include gasoline, insurance and up to 180 miles of travel per day in a complete package.
Finally, Zipcar will not apply extra fees for drivers aged 21-23. Budget Rentals, on the other hand, add on $18 per day for young drivers.
If the pilot proves successful, Zipvan will expand its service to other North American markets in 2012.
The notice comes after General Motors and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that airbags in 1,798 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans manufactured between June 2, 2011 and October 17, 2011 have faulty airbag systems that fail in their second stage during a severe frontal crash.
This isn’t the first time this year that GM issued recalls related to their airbag systems. Earlier this month we reported on an airbag recall for the Pontiac G8 after it came to light that many of the vehicles had issues with late deployment.
Owners can expect a call later this month when the recall begins if they own a qualifying vehicle.
Ford will debut an updated look for its Flex family hauler next week at the LA Auto Show. The new design is tipped to steer away from the polarizing boxy look of the original, with softer, more rounded lines.
Other updates to the 2013 model year Flex will include a more powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine with 20 extra horsepower, raising the total to 285-hp. Fuel economy will also increase slightly to 18/25-mpg. No changes will be made to the EcoBoost V6 engine option. Inside, updates will include an updated version of Ford’s MyFord Touch system while outside look for the Ford Blue Oval logo to disappear in favor of large FLEX lettering above the grille.
Ford’s other major debuts in LA include the Fiesta ST concept, the Focus ST.R race car and the all-new 2013 Escape, featuring a range of new EcoBoost 4-cylinder engines.
GALLERY: 2013 Ford Flex
The Fiat and Chrysler product osmosis continues. Chrysler first revealed its plan for a Fiat collaborated small commercial van for the North American market back in November 2009. Finally, here it is. Tofas Turk Otomobil Fabrikasi, Fiat’s Turkish joint venture, announced that it will supply Ram with 190,000 units of the Fiat Doblo small panel van over the course of seven years.
Launched in Europe early 2010, the Doblo is already proving to be very popular amongst businesses. But in North America, expect the upcoming Ram van to compete against the segment leader Ford Transit Connect. In the past year, Transit Connect sold 20,496 units in the United states, a 31 percent increase.
In addition, as the Ram Sprinter was discontinued in 2009, expect Fiat to fill in the gap by providing a larger commercial van for the North American market.
There has been no word yet regarding pricing.
GALLERY: Fiat Doblo
For its Ram division, since the loss of the Sprinter, Chrysler has been looking at a large van to fill the void. With no indigenous offerings at home, the logical step would be to tap Fiat’s resources in Europe and bring over variants of commercial vans already on sale across the pond.
Rumors have been circulating for some time, that versions of the small Fiat Doblo (a Ford Transit Connect competitor), the Fiat Ducato and larger IVECO Daily (shown), are all being considered.
If all three vans do make it over here, theoretically it would give Ram division a one-stop shop when it comes to catering to small and medium sized business, for in addition to these, the division already offers a commercial variant of its Dodge Caravan minivan.
In terms of cost effectiveness and durability, the Ducato and Daily probably make the most sense. The former, despite being front-drive, has a fairly low cost of ownership and a flat cargo floor ensures maximum space utilization. Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight Rating on the Ducato is 8,818 lbs.
The rear-drive Daily by contrast, boasts a GVWR that’s almost double the Ducato’s and is offered with both single and dual rear-wheel configurations along with high roof van bodies, plus chassis cabs, making it adaptable to a wide variety of different roles.
However, although Ram’s Marketing Manager, Bob Hegbloom, in conversation with Ward’s Auto World has said the division plans to introduce two new vans to North America, so far, he’s stopped short of saying which ones.
If two, or even all three of these vans make it over here, it will be interesting to see how they fare. The large commercial van segment is currently dominated by Ford and General Motors, the Sprinter, of which Mercedes now handles sales and service, along with it’s Freightliner commercial truck division, is still very much a marginal product in the segment, it’s high price and relative complexity, seen as drawbacks by many fleets.
The only other current competitor in the segment is Nissan’s recently launched NV (see our review here), which adopts much the same approach as the current Ford E-Series and Chevy Express/GMC Savanna.
Whether the Fiat sourced vans can make much of an impact against the current best sellers remain to be seen, a lot of it will no doubt hinge on pricing strategy, servicing and overall running costs, not just fuel consumption. We’ll likely find out soon enough.
[Source: Ward's Auto]
In Europe, Mercedes parent company Daimler is well-known for its truck and commercial vehicle division. On this side of the Atlantic, however, the three-pointed star is almost exclusively regarded as a manufacturer of high-performance luxury cars. Now Mercedes-Benz of Manhattan will allow you to combine those two seemingly at-odds concepts with the Sprinter Grand Edition.
The Sprinter, as you may know, is a Mercedes commercial vehicle – the sort you might see a courier use to deliver packages. The Grand Edition, however, transforms that cargo hold into an ultra-luxurious space for high-powered execs to either relax or get some work done – with enough space inside to hold a meeting with your shareholders.
Referred to rather appropriately as a ‘stand-up Maybach’ the Sprinter Grand Edition is filled with luxury items like a pair of 32-inch TV screens, reclining and massaging chairs, a sofa, refrigerator, satellite radio and wireless internet; which is enough to perhaps skip the G6 and take a road trip instead.
Offered exclusively through Mercedes-Benz Manhattan the Sprinter Grand Edition sells for approximately $190,000 – a solid $150,000 more than the conventional van.
Official release and full specifications after the jump:
Large panel vans are perhaps the ultimate form of mobile blank canvas – the acres of sheetmetal representing the perfect opportunity to install your own logo. Increasingly, companies are using vehicle wraps to market their product or service on their own vehicles and it’s proven to increase public awareness.
Now, Nissan North America is teaming up with Lakewood, Colorado based Original Wraps Inc. to offer specific wrap applications for customers of the new NV commercial van. Original Wraps has developed a software program that allows owners of Nissan’s new commercial van to create their own logos and designs on the Nissan Commercial Vehicle Website. Once the design has been finalized, it can then be printed on 3M Scotchprint Vinyl and shipped to the customer within 7-10 days ready for installation.
“We’re pleased to offer high quality, customized vehicle personalization with hundreds of different graphic designs created specially for the new Nissan NV,” remarked Joe Castelli, vice president, Nissan Commercial Vehicles and Fleet, NNA. “It’s part of our innovative approach to thinking about how our customers use their vans – including as a vehicle for advertising their company and services.”
The program is scheduled to start in January 2011.
With all this talk about sustainable mobility, automakers from around the world are trying all kinds of things. In Europe, Opel has one in the shape of this a “green” commercial concept, based on its Vivaro delivery van. On display at the IAA Commercial Vehicle show in Hannover, which runs from September 23-30th, the Vivaro e-Concept is, according to Chris Lacey (Director of International Operations for Opel/Vauxhall commercial vehicles), designed to “test the acceptance of our advanced propulsion technology for those attending the [IAA] show.”
The Vivaro e-Concept is a plug-in, extended range vehicle that uses technology similar to the Chevy Volt. It incorporates a 111 kilowatt electric motor that can provide a driving range of more than 220 miles on pure electric power, plus an internal combustion engine that acts as a generator to extend the vehicle’s range beyond that.
The batteries are stored under the floor to help protect them from the elements and can be recharged using a standard household 230 volt outlet. According to specs released from Opel, the Vivaro e-Concept can still haul loads of more than 1,500 lbs, which should make it a viable alternative to it’s regular, gasoline engined counterpart, particularly in parts of some European cities which are currently off-limits to cars and trucks because of noise and pollution restrictions. It’ll be interesting to see what the punters at IAA make of it.
Base LX models with features like keyless entry, cruise control, stability control an auxiliary jack, 8-way power driver’s seat and 4 LATCH positions start at $27,800. EX models add 17-inch wheels, five LATCH positions and power slide doors for $30,950 while the EX-L trim tosses in a power tailgate, heated leather seats, Bluetooth, XM Radio and a backup camera for $34,450. Both a navigation (with a lifetime subscription to Real Time FM Traffic and a 3-view backup camera) as well as a rear entertainment system (with 9-inch screen) can be included, although if you’re going to go all-out the $40,775 Touring model adds the 6-speed transmission (with improved fuel economy), 18-inch wheels, parking sensors and a memory seat. And for 2011 a new Touring Elite model tops out the range for $43,250 with that incredible home theater system.
Of note, most models come with a 5-speed automatic transmission with an EPA rated 18/27-mpg (city/highway), while top-trim Touring models get a 6-speed automatic with a 19/28-mpg rating.
Full pricing details after the jump:
What do you get when you take an AWD Chevrolet Express Van and toss in a 5.3L Vortec V8 motor? Just another heavy gas guzzler. Now what if you tossed in a Z06 cam and a 72mm turbocharger? Now you’re talking about a 7,300 lb tank that probably pushes well over 600-hp and 600 ft-lbs of torque, if not more to all four of its wheels. Now what if you took that van to the track in Las Vegas and lined it up with a Corvette ZR1? Well the safe bet would be on the ZR1 now wouldn’t it?
Unless the owner of these two vehicles knew each other, the Corvette ZR1 driver was probably wondering what in the world this Chevrolet Express van was doing in the other lane. And apparently he slept a little too long at the light trying to figure it out, as the Van not only treed him, but took the win at the other end of the track.
Now it’s a little deceiving given that the Vette had an atrocious .800 reaction time while the van jumped with a .260. But that was enough to make up the difference despite the van running a slower 13.34 @ 99 mph. The ZR1 ultimately took over (once it actually accelerated) tripping the lights with a 13.02 @ 121 mph.
At the end of the day though, the Van would’ve taken the win at any professional drag racing event. We’re wondering if they’re back at the shop trying to fine tune this thing in a 12-second sleeper. Imagine packing 10-15 people in that van with that power!
Check out the video after the break.
Chrysler is recalling all Dodge Caravan and Town and Country minivans from 2008-09 due to a concern that an improperly installed wiring harness could cause a fire. According to a release issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the recall affects 284,831 vehicles in total. NHTSA says that the vehicles in question may use a “improperly routed” wiring harness that may become worn by the van’s sliding door. The wire insulation may then become worn which could lead to a short circuit, or possibly even a fire.
Owners of 2008 and 2009 model year vans (manufactured between February and September of 2007) are asked to contact their local Chrysler dealer for a fix.
This is the second recall for the Chrysler van duo in 2010. Both models were recently recalled for faulty airbags.
Official release after the jump:
In China Buick sells several models we don’t get here, including the GL8 van. Recently, a replacement for the current GL8 was spotted camoed-up and testing in China, looking a lot like the Buick Business Concept first shown at the Shanghai Auto Show last year.
The current GL8 is based off the tremendously old Pontiac Trans Sport and so it’s nice to see that Buick is planning to move significantly forward with the next generation of this minivan/mpv. With Buick established as a full luxury brand in China, the GL8 can almost be considered to be the Buick version of the Mercedes R-Class here.
It’s unclear if the GL8 badge will stay intact when Buick launches the production model, but based on the concept we do expect to be impressed with the overall package.
Several years ago GM got out of the minivan business in North America and has made no hint that it ever intends to get back into it here – even cutting the Chevy Orlando from its U.S. product lineup. Still, a new GL8 might be just the thing to rival Ford’s Flex – especially with AWD and GM’s rumored twin-turbo V6.
GALLERY: Buick Business Concept
It won the North American truck of the year award and in the commercial sector, the Transit Connect has been generating a lot of interest over the last year. The Turkish built, small delivery van has been on sale in Europe since 2002, but was only introduced to our market last year. As Ford is retiring its fleet mainstay, the Crown Victoria sedan in 2011, many government agencies and taxi fleet operators are looking at a suitable replacement. With its small size, tight turning radius, significant interior capacity and decent fuel economy, the Transit Connect is seen as a logical alternative to the Vic taxi by some. Recently, the city of Boston announced that it will be adding these vehicles to its taxi fleets in the fall of this year, making it the first major American metropolis to do so.
According to Mark Cohen, Licensing Director for the Boston Police department that issues cab licenses, “we’ve been very impressed with the Transit Connect. The size, shape and configuration make it comfortable for the driver and passengers. It’s the closest thing to a purpose-built vehicle for taxi use that I’ve seen in 25 years.”
Besides space; durability, ease of maintenance and the ability to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) are all high priorities for taxi fleets. In addition to the Transit Connect’s 2.0-liter gas engine, the company will also be offering new pre prep conversions that allow the vehicle to run on CNG or LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas). Even without that, if the Transit Connect proves successful as a taxi, it is likely to boost the average fuel economy of taxi fleets by as much as 30 percent.
[Source: Ford Motor Company]
Toyota will launch a Prius minivan next year, powered by advanced lithium-ion battery technology. News comes from Japan’s Nieeki business daily via Reuters and is the latest report indicating the direction of Toyota’s plan to expand the Prius name into a whole lineup of vehicles.
The Prius van (or more likely an MPV similar to a Matrix or Mazda5) would be priced competitively to the current Prius and would offer improved fuel economy thanks to the new battery technology. The new model would include three rows with seating for 5 to 7 people.
The plan to produce of a hybrid van or hybrid MPV comes as no surprise as we reported last week that Chevrolet will also debut a version of the upcoming Chevy Orlando using the Chevy Volt’s Voltec powertrain. The Volt MPV is expected to debut in concept form later this month at the Beijing Auto Show.
Electric commercial vehicle set to go into production later this year
Ford has just announced two new versions of its Transit Connect commercial vehicle, which recently won the 2010 North American Truck of the Year award. Up first is the Transit Connect Electric, the first electric vehicle Ford will offer, using a lithium-ion battery. It can travel up to 80 miles on a charge, which takes about 6 to 8 hours to complete from either a 120-volt or 140-volt outlet. Ford claims a similar acceleration time to the gas-powered model although storage space is reduced somewhat to 135 cu.-ft. The vehicle is designed for fleets where driver’s have a pre-set route and a centralized location for recharging.
The Transit Connect Electric will go into production later this year, with a Focus Electric planned soon after.
Ford will show the TC EV at the Chicago Auto Show later this week, alongside another new Transit Connect model, the TC Taxi. Set to go on sale later this year as well, the TC Taxi features as second row seat that has been moved back by 3-inches for added legroom, while the engine has been converted to run on either natural gas or propane. Ford says the TC Taxi should deliver a 30 percent fuel economy improvement over traditional taxis. Other highlights include rear-seat climate controls, rear power windows and a touch-screen in the rear that can show things like maps, TV shows or payment info.
Both the Transit Connect Electric and Transit Connect Taxi will be officially unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show on Wednesday, February 10th.
GALLERY: Ford Transit Connect Electric
GALLERY: Ford Transit Connect Taxi
Official release after the jump:
Honda’s latest concept car (van) that is scheduled to debut at the Tokyo Auto Show, looks like something you might see done to an Odyssey minivan at Hot Import Nights. The reason? It has both the typical minivan sliding rear doors, as well as front “Lambo-style” doors.
Honda hasn’t released much info about the van, other than the fact that it is a hybrid. We suspect it uses Honda’s IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system as found in the Insight. Outside, the front fascia is most certainly inspired from the CR-Z hybrid concept, which Honda also debuted in near-production form today.
We’ll have to wait until the van’s official debut at the Tokyo Auto Show on October 21st for more details.
GALLERY: Honda Skydeck Van Concept